How Much Is a Timing Belt

Most automobile repairs aren’t cheap. It’s something that triggers dread in any car owner when they hear a strange noise or their ride behaves oddly. If you’re wondering how much is a timing belt, the answer is a lot. Of course, it depends on the vehicle make and model. You can expect to pay over $300 for a smaller one. If you have an SUV, you’re looking at a price north of $700.

What Is a Timing Belt?

This part is appropriately named because it controls how the camshafts and crankshaft work and, thus, the action of the valves. It’s like a dance where how everything interacts is of the essence to ensure the smooth and responsive operation of the engine. It’s a vital component of the motor to keep it all in sync. Fortunately, it’s relatively long-lived. You can expect to get at least 60,000 miles out of the OEM one.

Its function provides clues to the diversity of variations in this part. Since it’s integral to how an engine works, you’ll find that the timing belt is a proprietary component with car manufacturers. You’d think that it would be an expensive piece. The short answer is that it depends. It can cost less than $50 for some makes to well over $200 with others. If it’s a performance vehicle, expect to pay even more.

The price will also vary whether you’re getting the repair done on a Ford versus a foreign make like a Honda. The style of your ride is also a factor. A subcompact will likely cost you less than an SUV.

The differences lie with the specs. They will vary in the length down to an eighth of an inch. They come in diverse sizes with many teeth that are either pointed or curved and assorted widths. Timing belts are made of durable materials like polyurethane or a rubber compound to withstand contact with motor oil and high temperatures under the hood.

Why Timing Belts Fail

Timing belts will wear over time simply from use. Their materials aren’t impervious to the rigors of everyday use and the conditions under the hood. Rubber compounds will dry out and become brittle. Not taking care of your vehicle’s coolant system can speed up the process. It can also affect the function of the water pump, which creates a perfect storm to cause the belt to break.

That’s why regular maintenance is imperative. The parts of a vehicle operate in unison. The operation of one depends on one or more other components.

You may or may not get a warning that your timing belt is on its last legs. It may just snap with only an audible pop as your only sign that it’s done. Other times, you may hear a tick-tick sound when you start your car that stops once you get going.

Unfortunately, they are often nondescript and hard to detect unless you’re familiar with its operation. However, it can produce a loud squealing noise that screams trouble.

How Much Will It Cost?

Your next question is likely how much is a timing belt repair? You know that the part isn’t cheap, but what about labor? Regrettably, it’s a costly job because the work necessary to remove it will likely equal or exceed the price of the component based on the vehicle make. But there is a silver lining. You can also get other things replaced at the same time to make the most of it.

The water pump is something to consider replacing at the same time. You might also think about swapping out the belt tensioner of your coolant system and giving it a look-see too. You might not think of replacing a timing belt as maintenance, but it’s a smart idea given the consequences if it goes bad on you.

If you decide to replace the water pump, that will set you back anywhere from under $100 to over $1,000, depending on the vehicle make and model. The same applies to the serpentine belt. If you make the replacements now, you’ll have the satisfaction of saving yourself the labor charges if it’s a separate repair. It’s a worthwhile investment if you want to keep your ride for the long-term.

The downside is that it’s not an easy repair. It’s not a job for the DIYer. It requires special tools and experience that the average home mechanic may lack. And given the risk of complications, it’s probably something that is best left to a professional.

You can help keep your costs in check by avoiding the dealership with OEM parts and opting for an independent shop with aftermarket components. It might not save you a lot, but, of course, any bit helps. Keep in mind the savings with labor too if you get several repairs done at once instead of waiting until they fail.

Replacing a Timing Belt

The process of the repair sounds simple and belies the amount of work involved. First, you have to get to it. That’s where the high price of labor comes into the game. You will need to disconnect the power by removing the negative battery cable. That gets rid of the live connection, which makes the repair dangerous.

Then, you’ll need to take off anything in the way of the timing belt. Its function should give you a clue that you need to get deep into the engine to find it. You’ll be looking at removing the alternator, AC compressor, distributor cap, and other belts to hit pay dirt. As you may expect, you’ll need to pay attention to markings integral to timing.

Since you’re so far into it, it’s also a smart idea to check for wear in the parts you see and leaks that you can repair at the same time while you have access to them. Removing and replacing the timing belt requires special tools that the average home mechanic may not have. Renting or buying them adds to your costs.

You’ll need to balance these prices with the other ones to see if it’s worth you taking a go at it or letting the shop do it. Bear in mind that it’s a one-time repair. Unless you’re swapping out vehicles frequently, you won’t get the experience of doing it often to make it easier and more intuitive. It’s an indirect cost but something worth considering if you’re on the fence of taking it to the shop.

Other Costs

When a timing belt goes bad, you’re stuck. You better hope that your car insurance includes roadside assistance because you’re going to need a tow. If you don’t have it, tack on another $100 or more to the cost. And then it’s a matter of where it happens. If you’re close to home, you can get an Uber. If you’re on vacation, it’s a different story.

Since the repair is time-consuming, it’ll likely be an all-day job—assuming you can get in right away to get it done. The costs add up, making the maintenance option more affordable even if it is a pain and ramps up the money you need to dish out to get it done.

The timing belt is often something that exists off the average car owner’s radar until it makes itself known. It’s a costly repair that can cause widespread damage to your vehicle, prompting you to start shopping on Car Finder.

The timing belt is a critical part of the operation of a vehicle. It’s no surprise that both the component and the replacement are costly. It takes more than simply swapping out the old for the new. It affects the operation of the engine and its lifespan for the long-term. While you can do it yourself, it requires special tools and advanced knowledge that might make a shop repair worth the extra bucks.